Courtesy of ACS CAN

HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut is in the middle of the pack of states when it comes to supporting policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce suffering and death from cancer, according to a new report.

But one area that the state continues to get failing grades in is in providing funding for tobacco cessation programs.

Connecticut was one of only five states that put no money toward a tobacco prevention and cessation program in fiscal year 2018.

According to its latest report, Connecticut did well in five of the nine issue areas ranked. The report, “How Do You Measure Up,” was released earlier this month by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

A color-coded system classifies how well a state is doing on each issue. Green shows that a state has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices; yellow indicates moderate improvement, and red shows where states are falling short.

Connecticut got “green” or good marks for its cigarette tax rate, Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation services, increased access to Medicaid, breast and cervical cancer early detection programs, and access to palliative care.

Connecticut got “yellow” or a moderate grade for its smoke-free laws and pain policy.

Connecticut got a “red” or a falling grade for its indoor tanning device use restrictions. Children under the age of 17 are not allowed to tan indoors.

It received a failing grade, or “black” for its failure to fund tobacco prevention and cessation.

“We are pleased that, once again this year, Connecticut “measured up” in five of the graded areas,” Bryte Johnson, director of governmental relations for ACS CAN in Connecticut said. “However, as it did in last year’s How Do You Measure Up? report, Connecticut ranks in the black for tobacco control program funding.”

“This grade remains a blemish on an otherwise optimistic outlook about where we’re headed when it comes to implementing cancer fighting public policy, and a huge opportunity for the state as we look for areas we can improve in the next year’s rankings,” Johnson said.

It’s recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Connecticut spend $32 million on tobacco prevention programs.

But the state has a history of underfunding tobacco-prevention programs. Funding for cessation programs dropped to $6 million in fiscal year 2013, to $1.2 million in fiscal year 2016, and to zero in the past two fiscal years.

Money raised from the tobacco tax instead has been swept into the general fund to help the state try and deal with its ballooning multi-billion budget deficits, much to the criticism of tobacco cessation program advocates.

Connecticut this past year upped its cigarette tax 45 cents from $3.90 to $4.35, well above the national state average of $1.75 – again something it got good or “green” marks for from ACS CAN.